How to Leave the Military Without Ruining Your Finances

As members of the military reach a point in their military career where they must decide to stay or go, there are many considerations to make for now and for the future of the entire family.

As an active member of the US military, you have likely grown accustomed to the lifestyle as well as the secure income you’ve been earning whether you’ve been involved for a few years or for what seems like a lifetime. Just like making the switch from one civilian job to the next, it is really important to be prepared once the decision has been made.

If You Are Considering Leave the Military

Here are some other tips for choosing your future in or out of the military:

Career and Family Goals

Only you and your immediate family can weigh the pros and cons of a continued military life or returning home to be a civilian. You ultimately need to make the call by thinking through your goals and desires for the future. If you can’t see yourself committing to any more time in the military, it may be time for you to explore other options. If you are on the fence, it may be helpful for you to talk with other military members, former military members that have made a similar transition, your family, and your supervisor. No one should make the decision for you. Do your research and make a decision.


Photo by familymwr via Flickr

Prepare for Civilian Life Now

Depending on how long you’ve been involved in a military life, it may be difficult to imagine a transition to a life as a civilian with a 9-5 job. It is best to start preparing for life outside of the military world as soon as possible. Find out exactly what you need to do and what to expect when you plan to leave your position. There is likely a folder full of paperwork to complete and deadlines to meet. It is never too early to figure out what the next step will be so things can transition smoothly.

Stabilize Your Finances

You must have a solid understanding of your finances before you make the decision to leave. After all, most people would not leave if they could not reasonably afford it. You need to understand how much money you have to live on until you can work through the transformation of military to civilian. If you have been living on base, remember to calculate housing costs like rent and utilities. If you are single, money matters may not be as big of a concern as if you are married and supporting children. Since there will be a period of adjustment after discharge for life in general, don’t count on going right into a new job. You may need some breathing space and will have to account for the financial side of that break.

Create a Resume Fit for a Civilian

While the majority of your resume experience may be military-related, you’ll still need to find a way to convey how your military skills translate into a civilian job. You’ll need to prepare a clear and concise resume that touts your strengths and skills. Some employers want to hire military service members due to the strong discipline the military instills in its members. However, some of these employers struggle to understand the resumes of service members due to the use of military terminology and descriptions of accomplishments that civilian employers just do not understand. Seek out assistance from someone (preferably a current civilian) who can give you a second opinion on what you’ve created for the civilian world. Explain to them in plain English what your day to day duties were, and use them to translate that into a civilian resume.

Prepare Yourself and Family Beforehand

If you are single, it will likely be a bit easier to return to family and friends because you only have to worry about you for the most part. For military members returning to a spouse and kids, the day-to-day lifestyle change can be overwhelming for everyone, especially if the military parent was stationed away from home for long periods of time. At first it can be frustrating getting used to the habits at home but with preparation and some patience, an adjustment is possible. Start talking to your family about the pros of being together again and get everyone involved in the positive aspects of the transition. Seek out military transition counseling for everyone involved. And don’t forget to take your TSP with you just like a civilian needs to take his or her 401k!

About the Author

By , on May 31, 2011
Tisha Tolar
Tisha Tolar is a co-owner of Trifecta Strategies, LLC and the author of Gen X. When she is not busy being a fiction writer, she writes personal finance articles for several web sites, including Moolanomy.com.

Leave Your Comment (2 Comments)

  1. Kevin Mulligan says:

    @krantcents: what is sad is that, obviously, military members *do* have transferable skills to civilian life. But portraying that on a resume is difficult sometimes.

  2. krantcents says:

    Transition from the military may be difficult on several levels. Transferable skills is very important skill and re- acclimating to civilian life is the other.

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